Breaking: Baltimore Symphony cancels season

Breaking: Baltimore Symphony cancels season


norman lebrecht

May 30, 2019

Weeks after announcing a summer season, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra today cancelled it.

‘These decisions were extremely difficult to make and were not entered into lightly, but they are the right ones if the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is going to continue to exist as a nationally renowned organization,’ said BSO President and CEO Peter Kjome. ‘If the BSO is going to survive, our business model needs to change, and that change begins in earnest today.’

Every lone step forward at Baltimore is followed by two steps back.

These are the events affected:
New Music Festival – June 20-22.
Oregon Ridge Star-Spangled Spectacular – July 3.
Leslie Odom Jr. – July 5.
Harry Potter film with orchestra – July 11-13.
BSO performance at Artscape – July 19.
Cirque Dances – July 26-27.



  • Bill says:

    Cancels SUMMER Season would be a less misleading headline.

  • Portocalo Banner says:

    This was announced after the Baltimore Symphony Musicians helped raise 3.2 million dollars from the state government. Clearly the management and board of directors had this play in mind all along. Shame on these crooks.

  • Aubrey Foard says:

    Literally two days ago, the musician-started initiative to give the BSO $3.2 million dollars in a Maryland house bill was signed into law. Today, management decided to cut our summer season. No official notice was given to the musicians, we were all left to find out on Facebook.

    Everyone, please: follow us on Facebook here and follow Save Our BSO here:

    • fflambeau says:

      Nice link; thanks for that.

      Has anyone else noticed that the far right in America has gone on the warpath on a number of fronts in recent months: anti-immigration; anti-Chinese; anti-Mexican; anti-Canadian; for “regime change” especially in Venezuela and Iran; anti-public transportation; anti-public education; anti-women’s rights; anti-climate change to the point of being anti-science; anti-socialism (“Crazy Bernie” and attacks, even threats, against politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez); anti-democracy itself (“Bikers for Trump” while embracing dictators like Kim and Duerte) and also, anti-union including musicians’ unions.

      I see it as part of a larger picture.

      • Pribislav Obad says:

        “Politicians” like Occasional Cortex roflmao ! — she’s a freakin’ actor. Bernie never had a real job in his entire life. The larger picture is, for their ilk and evidently you, anyone this side of Mao and Stalin is automatically “far right”.

      • k says:

        I don’t disagree with your assessment of the current state of affairs regarding the direction of the country, but I think there is a broader spectrum of actions that are operative here (BSO) other than merely being anti-union, your last inclusion. While that most certainly may be a factor, some other commentators have made some very astute observations about the actions of the specific actors in the BSO story, pointedly, whether board members have a moral/financial obligation to help/protect/sustain the entity to which there names are attached, and the actions/non-actions of the administration. The far-right gets its red meat from lumping everything together because they can’t make distinctions between issues while at the same time not understanding cause and effect. The recently proposed tariff/immigration action is an example. Let’s not be like them.

  • Mock Mahler says:

    Mr. Kjome waited to drop his neutron bomb until Maryland’s governor signed a bill providing funds for the BSO.

    If he is prodding Marin Alsop to leave Baltimore, then canceling the New Music Festival of women composers is right on target.

  • Charles Turner says:

    Very sad.

  • drummerman says:

    Very sad. I’m sure they crunched the numbers but, theoretically at least, some of these concerts could have been money-makers (ie., Leslie Odom, Harry Potter.) I don’t mean that they would get rich from them, only that they could possibly turn a bit of a profit.

    • Saxon Broken says:

      I doubt whether any concert “turns a profit”. Pretty much all symphony orchestras only get a small fraction of their revenue from ticket sales. This is especially true for US orchestras since they offer reasonably high wages (even the Baltimore).

  • Don Ciccio says:

    And what’s worse, the “management” is still committed to a 40 weeks season (and even worse that this, the new season sucks, but that’s a different issue).

  • Anon says:

    BSO management is an absolute mess. They are 100% to blame for all of BSO’s woes, and one can only feel deep empathy and sadness for the musicians of the BSO and the people of Baltimore.

  • Jaime Herrera says:

    This is excellent news. Cost cutting works wonders. Ask Andrew Carnegie.

  • Patricia Yeiser says:

    Whenever a first-class orchestra finds itself in trouble, it usually is the fault of poor administration, not artistic excellence.
    Look to the administration., and the Board.

  • Ben says:

    The new Mis-Management-speak “Structural Deficit” = the old Mis-Management-speak “Business Model”.

    If management can’t rally a pop-like summer season that usually is reliably a big money maker, they can’t believably justify taking it out on the musicians.

    See Minnesota, Detroit, Atlanta. All relatively the same attitude and resultant problem whether it has to do with a summer season or not.

    The Board wants to rule just like in their own personal private for-profits.

    Nowadays, many if not most board members don’t even attend concerts and are more interested in burnishing their CV’s by associating their family name with the “High Arts” through their contributions to these institutions. They’re not really interested in “classical” or even “symphonic pops” music at all.

    They are not only degrading and destroying Symphonic Music, they’re degrading, in general, the status and VALUE of Not-For-Profits.

    This is nothing more than a degrading of our culture through their love of money. It is a cynical if not pathological desire to hoard their wealth.

    In the same way that poorer pathological hoarders have a house full of “things” just for the sake of having them (diagnosed by their own official psychological numerical code) , these petro/corporate billionaires are equally hoarders of their love of money that they should be equally classified, psychologically speaking, as hoarders of money and wealth… a newly created but equivalent psychological definition of hoarding.

    They truly need to be given their own new diagnosis code.

    Sad if it weren’t so pathetic.

  • fierywoman says:

    May they all get lots of wedding gigs to fill in for the lost income…

  • Jane says:

    That is sad news for this amazing orchestra. They also cancelled their summer academy which is also really sad because it brought a lot of people so much joy. I understand it’s a big financial issue but is there more we can do to help sustain them long term?

  • Enquiring Mind says:

    The BSO deserves better than Baltimore. I still think that management has not found all of the audience out in the surrounding areas. Most importantly, where are the rich donors that support their local symphony orchestras?

    • Don Ciccio says:

      As I said, they should perhaps change the name to the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, similar to what the Minnesota Orchestra did a few decades ago when was known as the Minneapolis Symphony.

      • Steve Proser says:

        Actually, your comment is sort of apt. Sort of. Minneapolis and Baltimore metro areas both have populations around 3 million and their state’s populations are around 6 million. They are each the only large population centers in their respective states. However, there is already a Maryland Symphony in Hagerstown, MD. And, changing names did not help the Minnesota Orchestra when they were locked out for 18 months for similar reasons just 5 years ago. Many people in the Twin Cities still regret the change.

      • Megan says:

        There already is a Maryland Symphony Orchestra located in Western Maryland.

    • Mock Mahler says:

      The BSO has lots of donors–just look at the program book (available on bsomusic website).

      Mr. Kjome loves to schmooze rich people. At almost every concert I see him make the rounds of the “Governing Members” [sic] lounge, hugging and grinning.

      BSO management trumpets their fundraising achievements at the same time claiming that the “crisis” can only be solved on the musicians’ backs.

      The state of Maryland, for its 3.2 million, should demand an independent audit of the BSO, and publish it.

  • Karl says:

    Nice to know that they put that $3 million plus of taxpayer money to good use. How soon do you think it will be before they go back to the trough for more dough?